Work continued steadily in the library and in the secluded temple. If Dr. Jay noticed that progress was ahead of schedule in the temple, he didn't say anything. Days blurred due to the day/night schedule, and days off seemed to sneak up on the boys. They spent those days in town or at the beach.
It was no longer coincidental that Duo met Heero in the temple at night - he made sure to be there. He really liked kissing Heero. It had been a very impulsive thing on his part the first time, but he hadn't regretted it for a second. At first, he had to ask or steal kisses from Heero, but they were always freely given once he initiated. Heero had yet to kiss him first, but Duo didn't mind that.
They were good at pretending everything was normal during the day, but nights had their own routine. Heero made sure they got work done, of course, but he liked to spend some time kissing as well. He had been nervous the first few nights, but he had gotten over that since. It really was as good as everyone said it was. Duo had shown him how to use his tongue, too. That had been weird at first, and he still didn't think he was very good at it, but he didn't mind it.
He wasn't ready to define exactly what that meant about him, but he thought it didn't matter. He just liked Duo. He liked it when Duo came close to him with that look in his eyes that said he was going to steal as many kisses as he could get. He liked that for what felt like the first time, somebody really wanted to be around him. Duo wanted to know him and share with him. Duo didn't think of him as a kid, or a boy, or The Brat, he was just Heero. He felt like Duo really understood him.
Two weeks had passed when they sat opposite each other at breakfast. The students were in clean clothes and in no rush to get to the library, but both younger boys were too preoccupied to notice anything different until Jay stood up to make an announcement.
"As I reminded you last night, today is our trip to Tel Aviv and Jaffa," he said.
Heero groaned loudly enough to earn a glare from his uncle before the man continued on with instructions. Duo stifled a laugh and kicked Heero under the table.
"What's so bad about Tel Aviv?" he hissed across the table.
"I've been there so many times," Heero groused, "I'd rather work in the temple."
"So, you can show me around," Duo reasoned, "besides, we don't have to stay with the students, we can do our own thing. We'll have fun!" The hint of a smile appeared on Heero's lips when Duo kicked his foot under the table. The days off had been a lot more fun since Duo had been making him not work. He sighed hopelessly. He couldn't get out of it anyway, may as well try to make the best of it. Maybe he and Duo could ditch everyone and run around together.
Both boys quickly changed into cleaner clothes and then walked to the bus station with the group. They sat together on the bus and Duo was a good sport about letting Heero talk about his obsession since he'd have to wait for night to work on it. They talked about what little of the star pattern had been uncovered so far. They'd finished the top row now, but that was almost too high up on the wall for the sunlit stars to reach.
"I think it's definitely a calendar like you said," Duo told him. "I'm getting closer on the floor translation; the last line is something about the seasons."
"It will be so great when the tiles are cleared off and we can study it!" Heero said, blue eyes glinting. "I asked my uncle, and he said you can come back next year."
Duo grinned back at him. He loved it when Heero was like this. He really came to life when talking about work. He came to life in a different way when they were alone together. He hoped the adults would let them roam when they got to the city.
Dr. Jay's only rule for the day was that the students had to return with an admission ticket from any museum in Tel Aviv or the neighboring city of Jaffa, which was only a short subway ride away. He didn't like the idea of Duo and his nephew running around without supervision, but Duo somehow managed to convince him and they dashed off before he could change his mind. He sighed and thought maybe he was being lenient because he was just so grateful that Heero had made a friend, however reluctantly. He genuinely liked Duo, and thought he was a good influence on Heero.
"What should we do?" Duo asked Heero when they found themselves in a crowded square.
"Let's not go anywhere the students might be," Heero said.
"So, in other words, no museums," Duo chuckled. "I know! We should see a movie!"
"But the movies won't be subtitled. My Hebrew isn't that good," Heero reminded him.
"That doesn't matter! We'll just have to invent lines. Or maybe see an American movie that's been dubbed!" Duo continued happily.
"Let's do that in the afternoon when it gets really hot," Heero suggested. "What should we do before that?" He purchased a map in English from one of the vendors in the square and they surveyed it for interesting attractions.
"There's a botanical garden and a bird sanctuary," Heero noted.
"Nu-huh," Duo grinned and pointed to the map, "catacombs! Come on, they're this way!"
Duo grabbed his free hand and hauled him off in the direction of the catacombs. They spent the morning gawking at bones and then found an outdoor café for lunch. Midday was indeed very hot, and they agreed the movie was a good idea. Heero tried not to snicker too loudly as Duo leaned into his ear and supplied funny lines. The movie was probably much more interesting that way.
The movie ended and the closest exit emptied out into an alleyway. The other patrons went on their way, but the two Americans lingered to consult their map.
"Hey, there's supposed to be a flea market in Old Jaffa!" Duo piped up.
"I suppose that is closer than the botanical gardens and bird sanctuary," Heero added. They were supposed to return to camp in time for dinner.
"Did you really want to go there?"
"Yeah," Heero confessed, "but we can do it another time. Maybe we can come back here on our next day off."
Duo grinned. So Heero looked forward to their days off now? It was especially funny coming from the boy who hadn't wanted to come to Tel Aviv in the first place. "I've never been bird-watching before," he said.
"Me neither. Not much bird-watching to do in New York City?" Heero ribbed.
"Pigeons and crows," Duo chuckled, "so flea market it is?"
"Sure," Heero shrugged.
"I got my bartering tool again," Duo said, pulling two packs of cigarettes from his bag. One was open. "Hey, have you ever smoked before?"
Heero shook his head.
"Want to try it?"
"I'm going to tell my uncle you are peer-pressuring me," Heero deadpanned.
Duo laughed loudly as he removed a cigarette and dug for a pack of matches. He lit one and puffed out some air. Heero thought he looked very at ease with it. He looked around nervously. The alley was empty. He didn't like the smell, but he was curious.
"Ok, I'll try it," he said.
"Here ya go," Duo offered him the cigarette, "just breathe in."
Heero tried his best to act like he knew what he was doing. He put the filter between his lips and sucked in as a big a breath as he could take. His virgin throat burned and he coughed the smoke out violently.
"Take it easy!" Duo said, trying to not laugh as he patted Heero on the back.
Heero made a face and held out the cigarette for Duo to take. "Ugh, keep it," he rasped. Duo's shoulders shook with repressed laughter as he took the cigarette.
Heero stuck out his tongue. "My mouth tastes all bad now," he complained.
Duo immediately took firm hold of his jaw and leaned over. His tongue invaded Heero's mouth and was gone before he had time to react.
"Not too bad," Duo said with a grin.
Heero just stared at him in shock. Duo had just kissed him in public!
"Hey, we going to the flea market or what?" Duo asked. He took another drag on the cigarette and sauntered off in the direction of the main street. Heero moved quickly and fell into step with him. They explored the flea market and picked up a few trinkets. They made their way back to camp by dinnertime, but minus the museum ticket that the students were required to return with.
All through dinner, Heero gave him what Duo construed as "meaningful glances," and he knew the other boy was really impatient to work at the temple tonight. More than usual. He spent the evening teaching Heero to play poker before Heero wanted to go to bed.
"See you later," Heero whispered as he left the card table. Duo sighed in return and decided he really had nothing better to do than go to bed too. It would make the time go faster until he could go to the temple at least. He suspected that was why Heero always went to bed so early.
Heero was already hard at work when Duo got to the temple that night. He grabbed his drawing kit and climbed the ladder. When he had finished what he had wanted to get done that night, he returned his things to the table they had set up.
"I had fun today," Heero said from behind him.
"Me too," Duo smiled and turned around.
"I'm sorry if I tasted gross before," Heero said awkwardly.
"I probably tasted worse," Duo grinned and walked over to Heero. He wanted to taste him now. He kissed Heero and when he let go, the other boy pulled him so they sat on the floor.
"Heero?" Duo said hesitantly.
"Would you, uh
Do you think you could, um, take off your shirt?" Duo asked, turning red very quickly.
"Why?" Heero asked, embarrassed.
"Oh, you don't have to!" Duo amended, "I just like the way you look, that's all. I'm sorry, you don't have to."
Heero was taken aback. It made him self-conscious to know that Duo looked at his body, but he couldn't help a little thrilled feeling that Duo liked what he saw. "Ok," he said, "but only if you unbraid your hair."
Duo snapped his head up to look at Heero. "What?" he asked, "my
Heero blushed now. It was always this way with Duo. The nervous flighty feeling that was overcome only by the drive of curiosity; the spark of attraction and the embarrassment of inexperience. He was used to feeling unbalanced around Duo by now. "Please? I want
to see it down," he said earnestly.
Ok," Duo agreed after taking a deep breath.
"You don't like having it down?" Heero guessed.
"Not really, it makes me feel
weird," Duo tried to explain. It felt damned vulnerable is what it felt like, but he didn't want to tell Heero that. Besides, he was willing to feel that around Heero. That was ok. Especially if Heero agreed to take off his shirt.
Heero cocked his head thoughtfully. He knew Duo's hair was important to him and why he had it. He pulled his tee-shirt over his head quickly.
Duo saw the encouraging look on Heero's face. He didn't look uncomfortable or unwilling, he just looked at Duo eagerly. Duo pulled his braid over his shoulder and pulled the band off. Heero's eyes raptly followed every movement of his fingers as he unwound the strands. When he'd finished, he pushed the mass over his shoulder and shook his head a few times.
He looked like a wild horse with that mane, Heero thought, untamed and
beautiful. "It looks pretty," was all he was able to say.
Duo cringed and looked sheepish.
"No, I mean, I like it!" Heero said. Damn it, pretty was the wrong word! Girls were pretty! Duo was
definitely not a girl. "I like it, Duo," he said again firmly.
Duo scooted closer. "I'll let you touch it if I can touch you," he offered timidly. He had wrestled with Heero on the beach, but this felt different somehow. He needed to ask permission.
"Ok," Heero agreed immediately, thinking he certainly got the better end of the deal. He reached over Duo's shoulder and gently ran his fingers through the strands. They were as smooth and thick as they looked. He gasped softly when he felt Duo's fingers touch his bare shoulder. He carefully pulled a lock of hair over Duo's shoulder so he could play with it. Duo's fingers slid reverently over his collarbone and onto his chest. It felt good. It felt different than any way he'd ever been touched. He liked that he got to stroke Duo's hair as Duo touched him.
"You have a nice body," Duo said softly.
"So do you," Heero shrugged, still concentrating on the other boy's hair.
"Nah," Duo said, tone slightly melancholy, "I'm kind of scrawny. Skinny and pale."
Heero shifted so he could look in Duo's eyes. "I think you look good, Duo," he insisted. He leaned forward, closed his eyes, and kissed Duo as he reached for the hem of his shirt. He fingered the fabric uncertainly, but Duo raised his arms and let Heero ease it over his head and help free his hair.
For Duo, it was like stripping away another layer of security. He felt so exposed. He shrugged his shoulders up a little and smiled at Heero bashfully, sure he was flushed all the way down his chest now. The intense blazing of Heero's blue eyes made him feel a little light-headed. He realized that that had been the first time Heero had ever kissed him first.
Heero smiled back as he took all of Duo in. He liked Duo normally of course, but he liked seeing this quieter, shy side too. He liked that he was the only one who got to be with Duo this way. He reached out and smoothed a lock of hair over Duo's chest and felt Duo's palm come to rest on his skin again.
Heero made his way to the bathroom before going back to his tent for a few more hours of sleep. Duo always left him feeling so exhilarated; he hated parting every night. When he was finished, he saw a figure outside the bathroom near the cypress bush. He moved out of the shadows, and Heero saw it was Father Maxwell. A frozen pit started in Heero's stomach when he noticed the priest lacked his usual smile and the crow's feet at the corners of his kind eyes.
"Heero," he said carefully, "you and Duo have started working at night?"
"Yeah," Heero stammered, "I know we're not supposed to
I'm sorry, did the light wake you or anything?"
"I think you two have been spending too much time together," the priest said, "it's not good for either of you."
"What do you mean?" Heero asked, trying to keep his voice steady despite the lump that was starting in his throat.
Father Maxwell took another step forward and lowered his voice. "I saw you kissing."
"You were spying on us?" Heero gasped. His stomach quickly began tying itself in knots.
"I saw you take his shirt off."
Heero felt embarrassed and he felt his cheeks color against his will. No one else was supposed to see that! It was private!
"What you two were doing isn't right."
"It's none of your business!" Heero shot back louder than he meant to.
"You're a bad influence on him," Father Maxwell persisted. Heero made an inarticulate noise in dispute but was too flustered to argue. "What you're doing is wrong."
"No, it's not! It's not wrong!" Heero burst out. How could the way he felt around Duo be wrong? How could it? He was so upset he started to tremble.
"He's not a plaything for you to trifle with and confuse!" Father warned, eyes narrowed, "I want you to leave him alone."
"But - " Heero tried to cut in.
"Think about the mistake you're making," the man beseeched, "for his sake and yours." He walked away before Heero could say anything else.
Heero was still embarrassed that the priest had seen them, but now he felt angry - deeply and extremely angry. Father Maxwell knew nothing about it, how could he just say it was wrong? It was NOT wrong; Heero refused to believe that. And why did he accuse Heero of "trifling" with Duo and confusing him? There was nothing trifle about his feelings about Duo, and he was pretty sure Duo wasn't confused.
He wanted to go talk to Duo right now and tell him what the priest had said and how it wasn't true. He thought about going to Duo's small blue tent and whispering his name and hearing him unzip it and being let inside. He'd tell Duo that he liked him and that them being together wasn't wrong, and he would kiss Duo again, and maybe he'd stay there for the night, stretched out next to Duo's sleeping bag. But then he decided that would be stupid because people would see them in the morning. He shook his head to clear it and looked at his watch. Damn, Duo was probably asleep by now. He went to his tent but did not sleep well.
Heero hurried through breakfast the next morning, almost forgetting to chew. Duo was not there, so he figured the other boy was already at the temple. Grabbing a banana for later, he plucked his bag from the chair next to him and rushed off to the temple. He was anxious to talk to Duo alone after what Father Maxwell had said to him last night. He hoped Duo had not received the same talk.
He was very surprised to find the temple empty and dim, and he was about to leave and track Duo down when Jay's form darkened the doorway.
"What's going on?" Jay demanded, arms crossed over his barrel chest.
"What?" Heero asked in confusion. His uncle sounded accusing, angry. He didn't want to deal with this right now, he wanted to find Duo.
"The priest and his assistant are packing to leave," Jay told him, "he said to ask you why. Boy
what have you done?"
"Leaving?" Heero gasped, "Duo!" He bolted for the door, but Jay caught his elbow.
"You're not going anywhere until you tell me what's going on here," Jay barked.
Heero pushed his hands away and stumbled backwards. "Let me go!" he shouted. He had to stop Duo from leaving!
"Start explaining," Jay demanded. "Why are my translators leaving?"
Heero thought he was starting to hyperventilate. His stomach was flip-flopping and he thought he was going to start shaking again. Duo couldn't leave him! Duo was leaving and he was stuck here and how could he tell Jay? This couldn't be happening.
"Please just let me go!" he begged again, tying to get out the door, "I'll explain it later! Please!"
Jay snatched his shirt collar this time and pulled him back. "You'll explain it now! What the hell is going on here?!" he growled. "What's gotten into you?"
"Duo and I
Duo and I
" he repeated. He felt sick again, like he had last night when the priest had talked to him. He hadn't even thought about that, it hadn't occurred to him that the priest would take Duo home. How could he explain this to his uncle? "Duo and I were
kissing. Father Maxwell saw us," he nearly sobbed.
Jay went silent. Heero imagined he was horrified. "Now let me go see him! He's leaving!" Heero begged.
"I think you've caused enough trouble," Jay said.
"You're staying here. I don't want you making a scene. It's their choice if they want to leave," Jay said, sounding calmer than he had a moment ago.
Heero collapsed to the floor, his legs folded under him and fists balled on the tile, and didn't realize when tears started rolling down his cheeks.
When Jay let him out of the temple, he ran back to camp as fast as he could. It was empty and Duo's tent was missing. Heero stared at the empty spot for a moment, and then went to his own tent instead of back to the temple. He did not want to work on it without Duo. He laid down and didn't really think about anything at all, he just felt numb and lonely.
He did not notice the time passing. He did not notice the students coming back for lunch and leaving again. He ignored his uncle when the man came to talk to him. He didn't hear anything Jay tried to say to him. He didn't hear Jay apologize to him. It was hard for him to believe that Duo was really gone. All the dreams he'd had about the rest of the summer and Duo coming back next summer... He didn't want to let them go.
He had been denied the chance to say good-bye to his best friend. It hurt. He wished so hard that he had gone to Duo's tent last night like he'd wanted to and said those things. Who knows what Father Maxwell had told Duo? He was worried about his friend, what if he was upset? What if Father Maxwell had yelled at him? He really hoped Duo hadn't gotten in trouble. He needed a way to tell him how he felt. He didn't want Duo to think that he didn't care just because he wasn't there to say good-bye. He moved for the first time in hours. He flipped to a clean sheet in his notepad and picked up a pen.